Ailey's 60th Anniversary Opening Night Gala Benefit Launches Five-Week Holiday Engagement At New York City Center
Last night, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 60th Anniversary holiday season at New York City Center kicked off with a star-studded Opening Night Gala Benefit performance and party led by Artistic Director Robert Battle, with iconic film stars Angela Bassett and Cicely Tyson as honorary chairs. Prudential Financial received the Ailey Legacy Honor for their generous support and commitment to Ailey, especially its education and community programs. The award was presented by Battle and Christopher Taylor, an alumnus of the inaugural AileyCamp Newark (2011) and a current scholarship student at The Ailey School, and accepted by Lata Reddy, Senior Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion and Impact at Prudential Financial.
The one-night-only program featured tributes to the Company's legendary founder with a specially staged excerpt of Memoria, a work he choreographed as an elegy for a dear friend; a piece d'occasion entitled For Alvin by Robert Battle, set to Nina Simone's Black is the Color; and culminated with Alvin Ailey's masterpiece, Revelations, performed with live musicians and special guest singers Ledisi (12-time Grammy-nominated R&B artist), Kenny Lattimore (Grammy-nominated R&B singer), Erica Campbell (Grammy-winning gospel singer), and Brandie Sutton (critically-acclaimed Metropolitan Opera soprano). Becoming Ailey, a multimedia piece that celebrates Alvin Ailey and brings his voice and presence back to the stage (created in collaboration with Bob Bonniol and Caryl Glabb of MODE Studios, Inc.), also premiered.
"Alvin Ailey said 'I'm trying to hold up a mirror to society so that people can see how beautiful they are.' In 1958, before the Civil Rights Movement, he "Made a Way Out of No Way" on a trailblazing journey to becoming one of the groundbreaking greats in African American history," stated Robert Battle. "His celebration of the human spirit has lifted us up and brought us together, and his spirit still runs through the veins of this organization."
Special guests from the worlds of business, politics, entertainment, and philanthropy included Carmen De Lavallade, Susan Fales-Hill, Jane Krakowski, Naturi Naughton, Soledad O'Brien, Amanda Seales, Bevy Smith, Jussie Smollett, Susan L. Taylor, Ben Vereen, Elaine Wynn, and many more. After the performance, the celebration continued at the New York Midtown Hilton's Grand Ballroom where approximately 900 guests joined Robert Battle, Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison, and the stars of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for dinner and dancing with live music by the premier band Élan Artists.
The gala Co-Chairs were Emily & Len Blavatnik, Paulette & Howard Bradnock, Mellody Hobson & George Lucas, Debra L. Lee, Stephen Meringoff & Kim Charlton, Lata N. Reddy, Daria L. & Eric J. Wallach, and Joan & Sandy Weill. Over $2.6 million was raised in support of the creation of new works, scholarships to The Ailey School, and Ailey's extensive educational programs for young people.
In addition, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill DeBlasio and the City of New York, and New York State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal joined in celebration by sending written proclamations recognizing Ailey's many achievements over the last 60 years.
Throughout December, Ailey's 32 remarkable dancers will unveil four premieres, two new productions, and a variety of returning favorites, classics, and special programs. The Company will continue to inspire audiences across North America with a 21-city tour beginning in January 2019. For more information, visit www.alvinailey.org.
On Friday, November 30th, Ailey unveils its first ever two-act ballet with the world premiere of acclaimed hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris' Lazarus. Inspired by the life and legacy of Mr. Ailey and addressing the racial inequities our nation has faced, both in 1958 when the Company was founded and today, Lazarus is an ensemble work featuring a soundtrack that melds Nina Simone, Terrence Trent D'Arby, Michael Kiwanuka, Odetta, original music by Darrin Ross, and the voice of Alvin Ailey. Harris is also currently serving as Ailey's first Artist-in-Residence, leading a wide range of activities across the organization: including The Ailey School, Ailey II, Arts-in-Education, Ailey Extension, and the New Directions Choreography Lab.
Performance Dates: Nov. 30, Dec. 1 eve, 2 eve, 5, 18 eve, 19, 29 eve
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4: THE CALL - WORLD PREMIERE
Ronald K. Brown describes the The Call, which seamlessly blends modern and West African dance idioms, as "a love letter to Mr. Ailey." The music includes Johann Sebastian Bach (performed by Chris Thile, Edgar Meyere & Yo-Yo Ma), Mary Lou Williams, and Asase Yaa. Prior to the work's premiere, Brown will receive the 2018 Dance Magazine Award on December 3rd. The Call, which features five dancers and is Brown's seventh work for the Company, promises to once again rouse audiences with his infectious call for harmony and hope. Brown's previous works for Ailey include Open Door (2015), Four Corners (2013), and Grace (1999), among others.
Performance Dates: Dec. 4, 6, 8 mat, 9 eve, 20 eve, 29 mat
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7: KAIROS - COMPANY PREMIERE
Kairos, choreographer Wayne McGregor's second Ailey Company premiere, fills the stage with sinuous, angular movement and synchronicity. Drawn from the ancient Greek language, the word "Kairos" has dual meanings, the first being the most opportune time to take action and the second being weather. The ballet is framed by Idris Khan's dramatic set design and played out to Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, re-imagined by experimental composer Max Richter. Ailey is the first American company to perform Kairos, which originally premiered in 2014 as part of the STEPS contemporary dance festival in Switzerland.
Performance Dates: Dec. 7, 8 eve, 9 mat, 18 eve, 20, 29 mat + eve
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 12: TIMELESS AILEY - SPECIAL PROGRAM
Timeless Ailey brings over a dozen treasures from Mr. Ailey's wonderfully rich body of work back to the stage, including highlights of seldom-seen gems Choral Dances, Mary Lou's Mass, and The Lark Ascending as well as perennial favorites like Memoria, Night Creature, and Cry. Act I excerpts include: Blues Suite (1958), Streams (1970), Pas de Duke (1976), Mary Lou's Mass (1971), The Lark Ascending (1972), Hidden Rites (1973), Night Creature (1974), and Cry (1971). Act II excerpts include: Phases (1980), Opus McShann (1988), For Bird - With Love (1984), Love Songs (1984), and Memoria (1979).
Performance Dates: Dec. 12, 15 mat, 22 mat + eve, 30 mat
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21: JUBA - NEW PRODUCTION
(New Production) Juba, Artistic Director Robert Battle's first work for the Company, explores where ritual and folk traditions exist in today's society, as four dancers engage in a modern day "Rite of Spring" with an abstract twist. An original score by John Mackey for string quartet and percussion drives the mood of this edgy, ritualistic work, called "electrifying" by The New York Times.
Performance Dates: Dec. 21, 23 eve, 27
SPECIAL WORKSHOPS AND PANELS AT AILEY
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5 AT 7PM | The Ailey Studios
Dancers of all levels and backgrounds will have the opportunity to learn from Ronald K. Brown, one of today's most preeminent choreographers, as he transports his renowned storytelling from the stage to the Ailey studios. On December 3, Mr. Brown will receive the prestigious 2018 Dance Magazine Award, ahead of the world premiere of The Call on December 4, his newest work for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. His two-hour master class fuses modern dance technique with West African movements, including traditional and social dance from the United States, Senegal, Cuba, and Ivory Coast. Designed for people with a wide range of dance experience, participants will develop their versatility and ability to organically move from one style to the next.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 10 AT 7PM | Ailey CitiGroup Theater
Throughout his lifetime, Alvin Ailey changed the perception of modern dance with his ability to reveal emotions in a way that touch us and teach us something about ourselves. In an intimate setting, distinguished former Ailey dancers Sarita Allen, Liza Roxas-Dobrish, and Desmond Richardson will share their personal stories, individual experiences, and life lessons that Mr. Ailey rooted in his dancers. Moderated by Sylvia Waters, the panel will offer deeply personal insight into the rich history and creative heritage of Mr. Ailey as we celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
All workshops and panels take place at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (405 W 55th St at 9th Avenue).